it's the process, stupid

I'm really excited about my short story work lately. Right now I'm working on a vampire mystery (well, he's a human but he's vampire police) called "Killing Song". I'm worried about it getting too long. It keeps feeling like a novel but I'm trying to cram it into 4000 words or less. So far so good. I'm surprised how fun it is cuz as a rule I'm not vampire crazy. While I enjoy the occassional bite myself, I never got into the whole Ann Rice phenom. But they're popular now and I have a feasible idea, so why not cash in, eh?

My new rule for short stories is to not start until I know the ending. I have four unfinished short stories and they drive me BATTY (hardy-har-har). I can pick my way through a novel and figure it out eventually. I have only one unfinished novel out of five, which is Exiled, my WIP. But short stories don't give me enough time to let writing process do its fair share of the job.

Incidently, speaking of process, I think this is utter crap:

And now for a writing exercise: You CAN'T have a great hook if you don't have a great book. As you're writing future novels, you may want to start with the hook. Build it from the idea up. Many writers write organically--they have an idea for a character, they envision a world, they invent other characters, then they come up with some conflicts to throw at their characters and they play god and just see what happens. That's a great exercise for fun, creativity, your own enjoyment, etc., but it isn't likely to lead to a fantastic book other people will be dying to read. If it is, it may be an accident that you stumbled upon a great hook, but you'll have no idea how you did that and your next book will stump you all over again.

This comes via Rachel Vater's blog. I've met her and she's a nice person, successful agent, said good things about my book, etc, but whaaa? All my stories and books, every last one of them, came to me via a scene or character or single situation. Most writers I know, successful or not, plotters or not, write the same way. I agree you can't just start throwing stuff at your characters--as you grow as a writer you generally refine your talent into a disciplined process (like not starting stories until they're finished in your head). But even as an artist, too, I've never envisioned a finished product. Discipline might be a higher species of talent, but dude, the process is the point.

Anyway, one exception to this is starting with a QUESTION, which is like a hook. What happens when twin boys go to war against the demon that lives inside their mother? But still, generally I see a character, write a bit, learn about the character, and from them comes the question. What is it about this character that makes them intrinsic to the situation, the question at hand, the central conflict?

Besides, if you don't have a whole hell of a lot of fun writing your book, who would want to read it? Grrr.

Aight, sorry for the rant.

It's 70 outside--dog walkin' and pansy plantin' weather. Here's a clip from the latest story. The head vampire in Denver has just been murdered:

Crawling with F.B.V.I. as it was, for once Kenna could go into the house she once called home without fear of retribution. She didn’t bother to even glance around but climbed the steps to Scarlet’s library. I’d been in there several times when I’d infiltrated as her feeder and I’d seen a lot of people die bloody deaths in there. But, I’d never seen it like this. Scarlet was all over the room, literally.

We stood in the doorway, holding bandanas over our noses against the rotted vampire smell. The undead decay pretty quickly.

“Gee,” I said to Paul. “You think there’ll be any fall-out from this?”

“Things are already heating up,” he said. “Three bite victims have turned up at area hospitals.”

“They’re too organized to fall apart this quickly,” Kenna said. “Scarlet had provisions in place.”

“That’s what he said,” Paul said. He was a face-value man, too.

Kenna made a quiet snarl of disagreement, the sort of sound that makes a cornered victim fall all to pieces.

We moved over to make room for Candace Woo, F.B.V.I. coroner. “Ouch,” she said.

“Can you be more specific?” Paul asked. His humor is so dry I didn’t know if he was joking or not. Probably not.

“Cause of death: being hacked to bits,” Woo said. A most painful way for a vampire to go, considering he would be conscious through most of it. Hell, for all we knew, part of Scarlet was still conscious somewhere in this room, unable to speak or cry out or do anything.

See? Now don't you want to know whodunnit and why? If you're nice little peeps I might post it for free before sending it out. Begging and beer is the way to get what you want.

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